Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Regeneron ($REGN) launched Eylea in the U.S. in November 2011, and since then, the macular degeneration treatment has blown through sales forecasts, one by one. And yesterday, Regeneron CEO Len Schleifer announced yet another.
Rather than the $377 million expected by analysts, Regeneron will report about $400 million in U.S. sales for Eylea in the fourth quarter, Bloomberg reports. That brings the year's total to about $1.4 billion, well within blockbuster territory. Analysts figure Eylea will hit $4.7 billion by 2018.
It's not the lickety-split growth Eylea enjoyed at first, when sales doubled quarter on quarter. There's a natural reason for that; patients start Eylea on a frequent dosing schedule and then taper down as time goes on. Schleifer figures that the drug can outgrow that tapering effect by expanding further geographically and moving into new indications, such as diabetic macular edema and macular edema caused by blocked veins in the retina.
Bayer, the company's partner outside the U.S., has rolled out Eylea in Europe, Australia, Japan and several Latin American countries and just won a new indication in Japan, for patients with a type of macular edema, in November.
Plus, Regeneron and Bayer may have a new companion drug up their sleeves. At the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Schleifer talked up the companies' plans to develop a next-generation eye drug to pair up with Eylea in a combination cocktail. Bayer put up $25.5 million for the Regeneron antibody, with up to $40 million in milestone payments to follow.
Meanwhile, Regeneron renegotiated its deal with the French drugmaker Sanofi ($SNY), which now owns about 16% of the company. Sanofi has the right to build up a 30% stake and can nominate a director if its ownership hits 20%. But the new agreement includes provisions requiring Sanofi to vote its shares as Regeneron's board recommends. The deal also prohibits Sanofi from acquiring more than 30% of Regeneron's shares, except in certain circumstances.
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